All posts by fepowhistory

One week to go!

This time next week, we will be in Liverpool getting ready to welcome all our conference attendees!

If you are joining us next weekend, here is the final update on what you can expect!

Jeya Jeyadurai

Jeya Ayadurai has played a role in the research, preservation, and education of Singapore history across more than three decades. Since establishing Singapore History Consultants, a research house on local history, he went on to establish a number of other heritage firms – Journeys Pte Ltd, Haw Par Villa Pte Ltd and The Changi Museum Pte Ltd.

Through his organisations, Jeya has curated and implemented more than 100 educational tour programme and workshops in character and citizenship education. Over the last 28 years, these programmes have reached more than a million students and half a million personnel in the uniformed groups – national servicemen, military personnel and Singapore police force.  

His group of companies also manages major heritage and cultural sites that were in danger of marginalisation or destruction such as The Changi Museum, Battlebox at Fort Canning Hill, Chinatown Heritage Centre and Haw Par Villa.

For his contributions, Jeya was awarded the Honorary Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (MBE) by the Queen in June 2022 for his efforts in preserving Singapore, British and Commonwealth military history and war remembrance in Singapore. He is also a recipient of the Special Recognition Award from the Singapore Tourism Board.

On top of his work in heritage, he currently serves as the Chairman of the Association of Singapore Attractions.

Pen and Sword

The origin of Pen and Sword Books is closely linked with its sister company, the Barnsley Chronicle; one of the UK’s oldest provincial newspapers – established in 1858 – and one of the few weeklies still in private ownership.The first books published by the company were in response to public demand following of a series of articles published in the newspaper covering local history. Following the success of the Barnsley Pals the company went on to start the Battleground Europe series of guide books going on to acquire the Leo Cooper military history imprint at which point Pen & Sword was born.

Pen & Sword has since established a strong reputation for publishing military history books with an ever growing list across many specialist areas.

As a company we have built a strong list covering the Far East in WW2 and are very proud to work with such organisations as FEPOW to bring this incredibly important and sometimes overlooked part of history to a wide audience having previously published such titles as Conjuror on the Kwai with the inspirational Fergus Anckorn.

Online Conference Update

We are aware that there has been some interest in live-streaming the conference or being able to access recorded talks online afterwards. We have spent the last few months exploring different ways we can offer this; unfortunately, this year, we are unable to make it work. Our priority has been, and has to be, making an in-person conference a great experience for networking and information sharing. We haven’t been able to keep this core ethos and find a way to tie in an online experience this year. We know that some of you may be disappointed to hear this, and we will continue to consider online options for any future events we may host.

If you cannot attend the conference, we are excited to share that the June edition of LSTM’s podcasts will feature some of our conference speakers and will be based on the theme of our conference. We will let you know how to access this podcast as soon as it goes live.

RFHG Speakers

We’re getting close to our June conference! If you’re joining us, here is who from RFHG you can expect to see speak!

Missed out on our other announcements? Click here to see all the latest conference news.

Geoff Gill

Geoff Gill is Emeritus Professor of International Medicine at the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine (LSTM) and the University of Liverpool, and a retired NHS Consultant Physician.

At LSTM he has been involved in the medical care of ex-Far East Prisoners of War (POWs), as well as extensive clinical research into their ongoing health problems – notably persisting malaria and amoebic dysentery, chronic worm infestations, hepatitis B infection, long-term effects of vitamin deficiency, and the extensive psychological aftermath. He has published extensively on these and other POW-related health issues. More recent research has involved the medical history of the Far East POW experience, in particular on the Thai-Burma Railway.

Meg Parkes

Meg trained as a State Registered Nurse in Manchester in the 1970s. Her father, Captain (later Dr) Atholl Duncan, was a survivor of captivity in Java and Japan. Following his death in 1997 Meg self-published his POW diaries.

In 2007 she joined the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine (LSTM) to undertake an oral history study interviewing Far East prisoners of war.  The resulting 67 interviews formed the basis of her dissertation MPhil.

Recent research has focused on the war art of previously “unrecognised” FEPOW artists. Most of the 69 British military artists uncovered were unknown to researchers. A Lottery Heritage Fund grant helped to stage the “Secret Art of Survival” exhibition in Liverpool, 2019-2020 (

Meg was lead author on, Captive Artists, the unseen artwork of British Far East prisoners of war, written with Geoff Gill and Jenny Wood. Meg was awarded an Honorary Research Fellowship by LSTM in 2014.

Michiel Schwartzenberg

Michiel Schwartzenberg has now become an independent and evening historian. He worked at the WW2 Netherlands Red Cross Archive up to 2020 and now is employed at the The Hague Municipal Archive.

He has just completed a book (in Dutch) about lesser known aspects of the Birma Siam Railway. One chapters will be presented at the RFHG Conference. The next book is going to move away from World War 2, but not the region. It will be on AFNEI, Allied Forces Netherlands East Indies, and the British occupation of Netherlands East Indies / Indonesia between October 1945 and November 1946. Told from British perspective and based on British archives. For the English a no-brainer, for the Dutch a novelty.

Emily Sharp

Emily joined the University of Leeds in October 2016 to study for her Master by Research in History degree, which focussed on how the Second World War in Singapore has been differently memorialised in Australia, Great Britain, and Singapore. She successfully completed her MA thesis in July 2018.

She is currently completing her PhD in History, also at the University of Leeds. This project aims to examine the cultural backgrounds of the men who were sent to fight in Singapore, and subsequently ended up in captivity as Prisoners of War of the Japanese, as part of the Australian and British forces. It will then compare these backgrounds and the actions/experiences of the soldiers during the battle and in captivity to see if the pre-war experiences had an impact on how each army behaved during the Second World War in Singapore.

More Conference Speakers Confirmed

We can excitingly now announce three more speakers for our June conference! Remember, to be the first to hear this news, make sure you are signed up for our newsletter.

Mary Monro

Mary Monro is an osteopath based in Edinburgh. She wrote a biography/memoir of her father, Lt Col John Monro MC, RA (1914-81), called Stranger in My Heart (Unbound, 2018). Her father (Brigade Major at the time) fought at the battle of Hong Kong, was imprisoned at Sham Shui Po and then escaped 1200 miles across China to the wartime capital at Chongqing. He was made Assistant Military Attaché in China 1942-43 and hatched a plan to evacuate the PoWs he’d left behind. He ended his war in the blood and sweat-stained hell of Burma 1944-45.

Mary transcribed her Dad’s wartime letters and diaries and comprehensively researched the context of his story. Not satisfied by the written word, she learned some Mandarin and retraced her father’s escape route across China. At her book launch, she was honoured by the presence of other families whose loved ones had served and suffered in Hong Kong.

Ken Hewitt

Ken Hewitt’s father, Colour Sergeant John Hewitt, served with the Leicestershire Regiment during the Malaya Campaign and became a prisoner of war with the fall of Singapore.  In 2006, 20 years after his father’s death, Ken started to research his father’s military career, and this led to an interest in all 936 men of the 1st Battalion Leicestershire Regiment during the Malaya Campaign and subsequent captivity.

In 2015, to commemorate VJ70, Ken presented his research findings in an illustrated talk to FEPOWS, FEPOW relatives and other interested parties. Following this, he was strongly encouraged to document his research more formally and in 2022 Tigers in Captivity was published.

Ken has given a number of talks on various topics relating to his FEPOW studies, and the veteran’s association of the Royal Leicestershire Regiment now recognise Ken as the authority on this period of the Regiment’s history and refer all relevant enquiries to him for response.

Gautam Hazarika

Gautam Hazarika grew up in India and moved to Singapore 20 years ago. He is a history enthusiast and is researching the lesser-known aspects of World War II in the Far East. This started when he acquired a manuscript We Published in Prison typed in Changi Prison in 1942.

The authors Harry Miller and Gus Harold Wade of the Straits Times were the publishers of the Karikal Chronicles and Changi Guardian newspapers issued in the male civilian internee camps in wartime Singapore. Miller/ Wade were among the over 4000 men, women & children interned. Most of these men were British colonial officials, planters, rubber/palm oil brokers, doctors, lawyers, priests and teachers. The women (mainly housewives) and children were segregated. Their experiences were both similar and different from that of the POWs. He has spoken and written about this as he continues his research.

Gautam is also researching Indian POWs in Singapore. Many joined the Indian National Army, and most of the rest went in Hell Ships to New Guinea/ New Britain near Australia to forced labour camps with death rates of over 70%. He is doing oral histories with children of the few survivors, has found an unpublished memoir, and even met a member of the Rani of Jhansi (INA) regiment, a still sprightly 95-year-old grandmother.

Even More Speakers Confirmed!

We can excitingly now announce the next six speakers for our June conference! Remember, to be the first to hear this news, make sure you are signed up for our newsletter. There are extremely limited spaces for the conference still available, so register now to avoid disappointment. Missed out on our other announcements? Click here to see all the latest conference news.

Sears Eldredge

M.F.A., Ph.D., Professor Emeritus, Theater and Dance Department, Macalester College, St. Paul, MN

Besides Macalester College Eldredge has taught and directed theatre in colleges and professional schools including Justin Morrill College (the Experimental Liberal Arts College at Michigan State University); Earlham College; The Drama Studio, London and Berkeley, CA. He is the author of two books, Mask Improvisation for Acting Training and Performance (Northwestern Univ. Press, 1996), and the multi-media, Captive Audiences/Captive Performers: Music and Theatre as Strategies for Survival on the Thailand-Burma Railway 1942-1945 (Digital Commons, Macalester College, 2014).

With his presentation, Eldredge will complete the “Changi by the sea: Rice and Shine” blog he has been writing for the RFHG website. It will detail the final year and a half the FEPOWs spent in Changi Gaol, and the extraordinary music and theatre they produced for the incarcerated POWs when the need was most great.

Gen-Ling Chang

Gen-Ling Chang is the former associate director of Toronto District School Board and currently the deputy executive director with ALPHA Education. As an active education leader and volunteer, she has an unwavering focus on equity and humanity issues and education. Making a difference for young people and their families who experience bias, discrimination, and stigmatization characterizes her years of service leadership in education and not-for-profit sectors.

Gen Ling’s service leadership then, and volunteer work now, are grounded in understanding education as an important institution of democracy, at the same time, its role in contributing to peace education. Working with ALPHA Education team, in building programs on critical understanding of WW2 in Asia, often overlooked in school curriculum, has further her work on youth engagement and leadership. ALPHA Education’s bold and necessary project to establish a peace museum dedicated to remembering, education, and world peace has been profoundly meaningful experiences for Gen Ling.

Arlene Bennett

In 1974 Arlene read Betty Jeffrey’s biography, White Coolies, the diary of her time as a prisoner of the Japanese during World War II in Indonesia. She was profoundly moved by the story of the Australian nurses.

She began her training at The Royal Melbourne Hospital in 1978. Following her training, she completed a Staff Year and then commenced a Coronary Care Course also at the RMH. She followed on and did her midwifery training at the Royal Women’s Hospital,
Melbourne. She returned to the Royal Melbourne Hospital, where she held the positions of Charge Nurse (Nurse Unit Manager) and Nurse Educator. She completed a Graduate Diploma in Adult Education at the University of Melbourne.

She is the Treasurer of the Lemnos – Gallipoli Commemorative Committee, which commemorates the Australian Nurses who served in Greece during World War I, a member of the Royal Melbourne Hospital’s Heritage Advisory Committee and is also an active member of Friends of Banka Island who assists the local community with aid as well as conducting the annual commemorative service for the nurses lost in the massacre on Banka Island. She was the immediate past president of the Australian Nurses Memorial Centre and remains on the History and Heritage Committee. She is an active participant in the commemoration of all nurses who have served from before Federation and, in particular, those nurses who lost their lives in Indonesia or were imprisoned during World War II and was recently interviewed by the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federations ANMJ journal for their ANZAC Day remembrance of Vivian Bullwinkel. She has a close relationship with many of the families who had relatives in the camps or who had been massacred on Banka Island.

She has travelled to all of the sites in Indonesia where the camps were during World War II and has recently returned from Java, Banka Island and Sumatra.

Terry Smyth

Dr Terry Smyth was awarded a PhD in Sociology from the University of Essex in 2017; since then, he has been a Community Fellow in their Department of History (an honorary role). From his earliest days, he wondered how his own childhood had compared with those of other children of FEPOWs. After careers in the NHS and in further and higher education, this curiosity led to a PhD based on in-depth interviews. Terry has spoken about his research at conferences in the UK, Japan, and the Netherlands and has also written two chapters for edited volumes.

His single-authored book, ‘Captive Fathers, Captive Children: Legacies of the War in the Far East’, was published in November 2022 in hardback; the paperback edition is due in July 2023.

Terry’s father, Edwin, was captured in Java and then spent three years in Japan in Hiroshima 6B camp, slaving as a coal miner, where he felt the rumble of the first atomic bomb.

Jackie Sutherland

With a life-long interest in geography and environmental issues, Jackie Sutherland graduated with a degree from Aberdeen University. Her professional career has been varied. She has worked for a major conservation charity, lectured on environmental studies, and, most recently, was head of a large secondary school geography department.

She developed a broad interest in military history after she met her husband, a military historian and author. Together they have visited and studied several sites ranging from the Somme to Gallipoli and the Crimea, from Singapore to the Falkland Islands.

In Singapore, her increasing awareness of the broader historical context led her to see her late father’s POW diaries in a different light and to understand better the magnitude of her parents’ wartime experiences.

It was this new insight that led to the decision to publish

James Reynolds

James Reynolds is the grandson of the late Eric Cordingly, and the son of FEPOW speaker Louise Cordingly Reynolds. James has worked as a BBC journalist since 1997. He was posted as a foreign correspondent to Santiago de Chile, Jerusalem, Beijing, Washington, Istanbul, and Rome. He is now a presenter on the World Service.

Keynote Speaker Announced

We are delighted to announce the first keynote speaker for our June conference! Remember, to be the first to hear this news, make sure you are signed up for our newsletter. There are extremely limited spaces for the conference still available, so register now to avoid disappointment. Missed out on our other announcements? Click here to see all the latest conference news.

Professor Edgar Jones

Edgar Jones is professor of the history of medicine and psychiatry at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience at King’s College London.

He originally trained as a social and economic historian at Nuffield College Oxford before completing a doctorate in clinical psychopathology at Guy’s Hospital and training as a psychodynamic psychotherapist. He is the programme leader for the MSc in War and Psychiatry at King’s College London, and works in the field of military psychiatry exploring how both soldiers and civilians cope with the stress of war and enduring its effects on their mental state. He is the co-author of Shell Shock to PTSD, Military Psychiatry from 1900 to the Gulf, Hove: Psychology Press, Maudsley Monograph (2005). His research into the Second World War includes papers on the epidemic of gastrointestinal illnesses suffered by members of the armed forces and the treatment of psychiatric battle casualties.

More Speakers Confirmed

We can excitingly now announce the next three speakers for our June conference! Remember, to be the first to hear this news, make sure you are signed up for our newsletter. Limited spaces for the conference are still available, so register now to avoid disappointment. Missed out on the first three speakers, click here to see who they are.

Carl Murray

Carl Murray is Emeritus Professor of Mathematics and Astronomy at Queen Mary University of London.  He obtained his PhD from Queen Mary in 1980 and then spent two years as a postdoc at Cornell University before returning to Queen Mary.  Carl is a planetary scientist who specialises in the dynamics of the Saturn system.

Carl’s father was Major Frank Murray RAMC, who survived incarceration as a FEPOW in Changi and Hokkaido, Japan, before returning to Belfast to marry his fiancée, Eileen O’Kane.  In the 1980s, Carl began to use his father’s wartime diary to learn more about the experiences of FEPOWs.  In 2020 this research led to the creation of a website,, where Carl documented Frank Murray’s life with the aim of providing a useful resource for descendants of Frank’s fellow POWs.  In 2022 BBC Gaeilge broadcast an Irish language documentary based on the wartime correspondence between Frank and Eileen.

John Willis

John Willis is one of Britain’s best-known television executives. Nagasaki: The Forgotten Prisoners is his third book about the Second World War, following on from Churchill’s Few and Secret Letters: A Battle of Britain Love Story, both published in 2020.

John was Director of Programmes at Channel 4 and Director of Factual and Learning at the BBC. In 2012 he was elected as Chair of BAFTA (British Academy of Film and Television Arts). He is currently Chair of Governors at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama (University of London) and Chair of the Complaints Review Panel, Guardian and Observer newspapers.

Louise Reynolds

Louise Reynolds is a qualified psychotherapist and worked for 20 years as a couples’  therapist in London for Relate, for the Tavistock Centre and in private practice.  Before that, she worked for the BBC as a studio manager (radio) and floor manager (television) and then for BBC Radio Training.  When her husband was appointed BBC Foreign Correspondent, she and their young family spent nine years abroad in New York, Brussels and Jerusalem and latterly in Washington, and she contributed some radio features to Woman’s Hour and The Sunday Programme.

She began her research into her father’s experiences as a FEPOW after discovering his diaries amongst her mother’s papers in 2012. They covered his time as a Padre in Changi and then in Kanchanaburi beside the River Kwai, where he buried over 600 young men who had died of complications due to the appalling conditions of their captivity.  She has published four books:  Down to Bedrock, The Changi Cross and Eric and Scrunchball (a children’s book) and then in 2019, she embarked on a series of interviews for her latest publication, Echoes of Captivity, which illustrates and exposes the trans-generational trauma experienced by many FEPOW families.  She has used her therapy training as a basis for understanding this phenomenon.

Speakers Confirmed

We’re really looking forward to our conference this June, and to add even more excitement, we can now begin to start announcing our confirmed speakers!

Here are the first three to whet your appetite, but we’ll be announcing many more speakers for our jam-packed weekend very soon. Remember to make sure you are signed up for our newsletter for sneak peeks at these announcements. Plus, we still have a few spaces available, so to secure your spot, register now.

John Tulloch

John Tulloch MBE served in the New Zealand Army from 1965 to 1973, including a Tour of Duty in Vietnam from July 1968 to July 1969. He served in the Royal Artillery from 1973 to 2003 in the UK, Northern Ireland, Germany and the Netherlands, including the Falklands in 1982. He served in the Sultan of Oman’s Armed Forces from 1978-80. He spent 21 years as a visiting Jungle Warfare Instructor and advisor to the UK Jungle Warfare School in Brunei.

His book ‘The Borneo Graveyard 1941-1945’ which took 12 years of research, was published in March 2020. His book was launched in the UK in 2021 at the CWGC VJ Day 2021 Service. The Sabah book launch is on 27 February 2023.

He was honoured with the MBE in 2003 in recognition of his service to jungle warfare training.

He gives talks on Vietnam and Borneo to the military, historical groups and schools. 

Toby Norways

Dr. Toby Norways is a Senior Lecturer in Scriptwriting at the University of Bedfordshire. He is an award-winning writer of script and prose. His films have screened in diverse locations around the world, including BAFTA Piccadilly, the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Hollywood, and Iraq.

Toby was awarded a PhD in English Literature from Liverpool Hope University in 2021. The PhD involved writing a memoir of his late father, Bill Norways (1918-86), a Corporal in the 2nd Cambridgeshire Regiment, who spent three and a half years as a prisoner of the Japanese. Bill was a trained artist and brought back over 200 paintings, sketches, and photos from his captivity in Singapore and Thailand.

Jon Cooper

Dr Jon Cooper is a recent graduate from the Centre for War Studies and Conflict Archaeology at the University of Glasgow, having completed his thesis on the life and times of the Scottish soldiers in Singapore in 1942. Previously Jon spent 7 years in Singapore as Project Coordinator for The Adam Park Project, which looked at the archaeology relating to the defence of the Adam Park Housing by the 1st Battalion Cambridgeshires and the subsequent occupation of the wrecked estate by 3,000 POWs in 1942.

Jon curates an online virtual museum which holds all the Adam Park source material, which is linked to the book ‘Tigers in the Park’. He currently works as a freelance conflict archaeologist, battlefield tour guide and a tutor at the University of Glasgow in which the Singapore campaign is given the limelight. Jon also helps with the CoFEPOW Scottish section, introducing new Scottish members to the experience of the Scots in the Far East. His ambition is to get back out to Singapore to continue the surveys along the south coast battlefields. 

Conference Confirmed

We are looking forward to the 2023 conference this June, which is going ahead, barring any unforeseen last-minute restrictions. 

As currently there are no restrictions on space at the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine (LSTM), we are pleased to announce that we can now expand capacity. Those on the waiting list have been informed, and if you haven’t booked already, now is the time to do so, as there are a few places still available. Please fill out this form to secure your spot!

As a reminder, the dates are 10th -11th June. We expect the times of the conference to be 09:00-16:30 on both days for our core schedule. If you need accommodation, we recommend The Liner Hotel (with discount booking code: 0623LIVE. Please note to use this code you need to make your booking by ringing 0151 709 7050 or online The hotel is conveniently located next to Liverpool Lime Street Station and a short walking distance from the LSTM. Some optional evening sessions will also take place in The Liner too. But of course, there are many other options to choose from.

We will be announcing further conference news, including more speakers, in the lead-up to June. To be the first to hear any announcements make sure you are signed up for our newsletters. You can also follow us on Twitter and Facebook. All conference information can be found in our dedicated website section too.

We look forward to seeing you at the conference!

All the best,
The RFHG Team

Save the only Victoria Cross awarded to the RAF in the Far East during the Second World War

RAF Sqn. Ldr. A.S.K. Scarf was the recipient of the only Victoria Cross awarded to the Royal Air Force for services in the Far East during the Second World War.

In April 2022, this medal was recently auctioned and sold to an overseas buyer for £550,000. With auction costs added, the total price of the medal rose to £682,000. The British Government, however, has refused to give permission for these medals to be removed from the country.

The buyer has offered the RAF Museum the chance to buy these medals so that they can be preserved and displayed to the public, and, most importantly, so that Arthur Scarf’s story of personal courage can be honoured and kept within the UK as a national treasure.

To achieve this, the RAF Museum (a charity itself) needs to raise £250,000 through public donations so that it can be added to a contribution being made from the Museum’s own funds, and a potential grant from the National Heritage Memorial Fund. 

Why was Arthur Scarf awarded the Victoria Cross?

On the 9 December 1941, RAF Sqn. Ldr. A.S.K. Scarf was leading a formation of Bristol Blenheim aircraft in a daylight attack on Japanese forces occupying airfields in Singora, Thailand. This was a strategic location for the Japanese from which they were launching their own attacks on Malaya.

As Scarf took off, a Japanese bomber formation flew over the airfield and destroyed all British aircraft on the ground. Scarf realised that his aircraft was the only one of his squadron’s remaining, and so, he was determined to finish their mission.

Flying low and for around 30 miles into Japanese-held territory, Scarf managed to evade attacks by enemy aircraft and release the bombs whilst his crew manned his aircraft machine guns.

This attracted more enemy aircraft. Scarf was outnumbered, outgunned, and in an aircraft slower than those of the Japanese. Despite trying to find protection by flying at tree top level and evading the worst of the attacks machine gun fire riddled Scarf’s aircraft and he became mortally wounded.

But Scarf carried on. Held upright by his crew, he continued to fly the Blenheim until he was able to make a controlled crash landing at a British controlled airfield.

Scarf sadly died shortly after from his wounds, but he had returned the rest of his crew uninjured.

The Victoria Cross was awarded posthumously in 1946 and was presented to his widow, Elizabeth, by King George VI at Buckingham Palace.

How can you help?

If you would like to help Save Arthur Scarf’s Victoria Cross please make a donation to the Royal Air Force Museum’s dedicated fundraiser.

Alternatively, you can send a cheque made out to RAF Museum with a note stating it is for the Arthur Scarf Campaign, to the following address:

Ella Ponton-Hewitt
RAF Museum
Grahame Park Way

If you would like to read more about the RAF Museum’s campaign then please click here.

Further Shows at Sime Road

By Sears Eldredge

Next on The Barn’s Spring Season was Rag Bag Revue produced by Horner, Roberts, and W. Hogg-Fergusson. This is the first show in which the Dutch/Indonesian female impersonator, Henri Ecoma, appeared—dancing and singing “La Conga.” Beckerley, who liked to sing as well as act, became part of the “Barn Quartet.”

I liked singing. So did Joe Bernstein, a professional tenor, Ken Luke, headmaster of a Malayan public school, bass, George Sprod, Australian Smith’s Weekly artist and cartoonist alto, and me . . . somewhere between Joe and George; I quote Joe In short, the Barn Quartet. Under Bernstein we were really good. We sang in every show except plays.[i]

. . . .

Joe wrote music and made sure we learned the score. A hard master Joe! When he put his hands on his hips with that pained look and the shake of his head, we three knew we [were] for it . . . not infrequently. We were good because Joe was a professional.[ii]

Beckerley also appeared in a number of skits, and even Searle appeared in two offerings.

When not working on the sets I did quite a few of standing in as understudy for the young female roles: Man of Destiny and Bird in Hand were two at Sime Road. . .. Actors were often unable to rehearse being out on working parties. . .. I could invariably fiddle my stay in camp to fit with a rehearsal when needed. Searle did not favour my, I quote, ‘stage struck desire to appear in plays’. I reminded him of that when he and I were cast in “Hamlet goes Hollywood,”[1] I was Ophelia. . . Ron, Laertes cum American reporter. I come on stage with straw in my hair, nursing a bunch of flowers. As I cross the stage, I offer each flower to the audience: “There’s rosemary, that’s for remembrance.  There’s pansies, that’s for thoughts. There’s fennel that’s for you.”  (NOW HOLDING OUT A CHINA JAR) And [there’s] sulpher, that’s for scabies!” Audience loved it. Ron was good as the American reporter. He too loved it. His American accent was almost a Southern drawl, quite in keeping with the comedy. Stage struck.[iii]

The next show of the Spring Season was an adaptation of Patrick Hamilton’s “Masterpiece of the Macabre,” Rope, produced by Jon Mackwood and W. Hogg Fergusson, which played between March 28 and April 1. The Dutch performer, Fritz Scholer, appears again in the cast. Then, on 4 April, Music Thru the Years, opened. The show was a cavalcade of music compiled by the pianist Bill Williams with songs, sketches, and dances. Beckerley took the part of a female character:

In “Music through the Years” Alan at five feet two. Alan is the black whiskered villain to my five feet nine damsel in distress. I sing, “No, no, a thousand times No, you cannot buy my caress. No, no a thousand times no, I’d rather die than say yes.” Alan, “Marry me or your father will die!” Me, “Oh, poor father!” Alan, “Into the water with him!”  Me, “Oh, but he can’t swim!” Alan, “Well, now’s his time to bloody learn.”[iv]

The Barn Quartet sang a number of times in the show: “One song, ‘Comrades in Arms’ was a sort of best seller; the audiences not allowing us to retire before a repeat of it. Stirring stuff! I liked it so no chore for me.”[v]

This show was followed on 11 April by Nuts and Wine: A Gourmet’s Revue, which contained “Bolero” and “Lady of Spain,” danced by Henri Ecoma.

Caricature of Henri Ecoma. Desmond Bettany.
Courtesy of the Bettany Family.
View more of Desmond Bettany’s artwork at:

P. G. Wodehouse’s comedy, Good Morning, Bill, was scheduled for 18 April, but for some reason it was replaced by John Drinkwater’s comedy, Bird in Hand. And the four original one act plays by Lt. W. H. Ferguson that were next on the schedule were also canceled. Scotch Broth, a hastily cobbled together Variety Show, went on instead, opening on 25 April. The Highland costumes are credited to Besser & Burn. And here again, was Henri Ecoma. This time he was playing the native seductress, “Tondeleyo” [sic] from the 1923 London hit play, White Cargo. Beckerley had distinct memories of Ecoma:

. . . Henri on stage was a girl, he didn’t have to convince anybody. Anybody can put on a wig, tart himself up etc., etc., but strip him and confront an audience in a dance designed to arouse sexual desires is something that made Henri unique . . . he moved like a girl anyway. He also had a disconcerting way of switching to Dutch when he got excited, which was not infrequently and expecting us to keep up, as it were.[vi]

In early May, The Barn Entertainment Committee announced their Summer Season, which would contain the usual variety shows, plays, etc.—even a Dutch show—a night of Shakespeare, and an A.I.F. Concert. But their plans for a Summer Season were scuttled when the Japanese announced that they were all moving to Changi Gaol to replace the European civilian men, women, and children who had been interned there since the fall of Singapore and were now to take up residence at Sime Road.

Rice and Shine will be taking a short break in the New Year, but will return to continue the Changi story, plus cover a few other locations, soon!

[1] A comic sketch in Rag Bag Revue.

[i] Beckerley, J. Letter. 26 July 04.

[ii] Beckerley, J. Ibid.

[iii] Beckerley, J. Ibid.

[iv] Beckerley. J. Ibid.

[v] Beckerley, J. Ibid.

[vi] Beckerley, J. Letter. 24 April 05.